‘Virtual’ consultants help CCGs reduce outpatient appointments

Cheshire clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have significantly reduced hospital referrals with a new digital service that could be replicated across the NHS.

Thirty practices in South Cheshire and Vale Royal CCGs are using Medefer – a service that enables GPs to access ‘virtual’ consultant advice and management plans – for patients who may otherwise be referred for outpatient care. The results of the pioneering work in the region were released at the Health and Care conference in London by Medefer’s co-founder and CEO Dr Bahman Nedjat-Shokouhi.

Since July 2016, Medefer has enabled around 150 Cheshire GPs to manage in the community 77% of patients they refer to the service – significantly reducing unnecessary hospital outpatient appointments.

Sinead Clarke, clinical director for performance, finance and IT at South Cheshire CCG, said: “I really like using the Medefer service, and the feedback has been almost universally good from my GP colleagues. The referral form is easy to fill in, and pulls in a lot of information from the patient’s medical history, which means the consultant has a rich data set from which to begin reviewing the case. We get a much quicker response than if we had referred the patient for an outpatient appointment.”

Founded by hospital clinicians, Medefer combines a technical platform with specialist clinical knowledge and data insight to streamline the patient journey.

Medefer’s system has been tailored to the Cheshire CCGs’ needs and capacity of local hospitals. It combines advice from specialists at the local hospitals and Medefer’s national network of consultants, who provide extra capacity to the local health system in three major specialties: gastroenterology, cardiology and respiratory.

Further specialties are provided locally by Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which uses the Medefer platform to give local GPs digital advice and guidance for paediatrics, haematology, gynaecology, ENT and orthopaedics.


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